If your Home Office application has been refused, you have been deemed by the caseworker not to have met the relevant requirements. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to appeal or challenge the decision.
The following practical guide in relation to UK visa and citizenship applications looks at what happens when an application is refused by Home Office staff and what this means for the applicant. We consider what options are potentially available, from the possibility of an appeal to submitting a fresh application. We also consider some common reasons for a refusal decision, helping applicants to navigate the potential pitfalls when (re-)applying.
What does an application refused by Home Office staff mean?
If your application for a visa or British citizenship is refused by the Home Office, this means that the application and/or supporting documentation have been considered by a UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) caseworker and they have reached the conclusion that you are not entitled to the immigration benefit sought. UKVI is the division of the UK’s Home Office responsible for making visa and citizenship decisions, where a refused application means that you have not been approved for a visa, or to naturalise or register as a British citizen.
There are various eligibility requirements that must be met under the UK’s Immigration Rules when applying for a visa. There are also certain suitability requirements that must be met where, in the context of most visa applications, you must not be in breach of immigration laws or on immigration bail, and must not fall for refusal under Part 9: general grounds for refusal. Equally, there are various statutory requirements that must be met under the relevant immigration legislation when applying to naturalise or register as a British citizen. In either scenario, if any of the substantive requirements have not been met, unless there is some basis upon which some discretion can be exercised in your favour and the UKVI caseworker deems it appropriate to do so, this will result in a refusal decision.
If your application for a visa or citizenship is refused, this essentially means that your case has been assessed on its merits and decided against you. However, this is entirely different to where an application is rejected, even though the net effect in either case is that you have not been successful in seeking the benefit sought. Unlike a refusal decision, a rejected application is where the validity requirements for an application have not been met, such that the application is not considered at all, but denied as invalid, without adjudication.
In many cases, you will be given the opportunity to rectify any failure to meet the validity requirements of your application, before it being rejected. These requirements relate mainly to procedural matters, such as providing the correct paperwork and paying the correct fee, where you will usually have the chance to put right any omission or error. In contrast, if you fail to meet any eligibility and suitability requirements, a refusal decision will usually follow. In these cases, you will need to consider the limited options available to you.
What are your options if an application is refused by the Home Office?
If you have recently made an application for a visa or British citizenship, and that application has been refused, you will need to know what options are available to you. However, much will depend on the basis upon which your application has been denied.
For a refusal decision, it may be possible to appeal that decision, although immigration rules and regulations significantly restrict the cases in which an appeal can be pursued to the immigration tribunal. It may also be possible to seek an administrative review of your decision, where UKVI will internally review the decision reached, although this is limited to eligible decisions where it is alleged that a case-working error has occurred.
Alternatively, you might be able to ask for the decision on your application to be reconsidered by UKVI if you applied in the UK. This is known as a reconsideration request, although you cannot ask for a reconsideration if you have a right to an appeal or a review. Finally, absent or aside from any of these options, it may be possible (and far easier) to re-apply for your visa or citizenship, provided you can meet all the relevant requirements.
Can you appeal an application refused by Home Office staff?
In some cases, you may be able to appeal a refusal of your application to the First-tier Tribunal Immigration and Asylum Chamber, provided you have the legal right to appeal. You should be told if you can appeal in your UKVI decision letter or email. You can only appeal a decision to the immigration tribunal in certain cases, including where UKVI has:
- refused a residence document under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016
- refused immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
- refused a travel or family permit under the EUSS
- refused a frontier worker permit
- refused leave as an S2 healthcare visitor
- refused a human rights claim, such as when applying for a visa on the basis of family life
- refused a humanitarian protection or asylum claim.
The immigration tribunal is independent of the UK government, where a qualified judge will listen to both sides of the argument before making a decision. However, even if your decision is eligible for appeal, it can take several months for a decision to be made by the tribunal. Additionally, even if your appeal is allowed, this does not necessarily mean a decision will be made in your favour, where UKVI may be asked to reconsider its findings. In doing so, UKVI may again refuse your application, but for entirely different reasons.
What if your appeal is unsuccessful?
If the tribunal dismisses your appeal, you may be able to appeal to the Upper Tribunal, although you would need permission to do so. An appeal of the Lower Tribunal’s decision will only be allowed to proceed to the Upper Tribunal if there appears to have been a legal error. This means that the tribunal must have got the law wrong, did not use the correct law, failed to follow the correct legal process or had no evidence to support its decision.
It may also be possible to apply to the Upper Tribunal or Administrative Courts for a judicial review to challenge the lawfulness of a decision or other conduct by a public body in deciding your application, where a public body can include both the Home Office and the First Tier Tribunal. However, these cases are rare, where you should only use the judicial review process if you are challenging a decision on the grounds that it is unlawful, illegal, irrational or unreasonable (in a legal sense), rather than simply wrong.
In most cases, the main options following an unsuccessful appeal would be to either submit a fresh application under the same route, whereby you address and resolve the initial grounds for refusal, or to make a new application under a different route with different application and eligibility requirements. Take professional advice to consider your options in the circumstances.
Can you request a review of a refused Home Office application?
If you do not have a right of appeal, you may instead be able to have your refusal decision reviewed under UKVI’s administrative review process. As with any right to appeal, you will be told in your letter or email from UKVI if you can ask for a review of your decision.
However, an administrative review is only available where an ‘eligible decision’ has been made, as set out under Appendix AR of the Immigration Rules. This means that not everyone will have the right to ask for an administrative review, for example, those applying for a Visitor visa or British citizenship do not have the right to a review.
Additionally, even though an administrative review is undertaken internally by UKVI, this process can still take several months to be concluded and does not necessarily guarantee a successful outcome. An administrative review will consider whether an eligible decision is wrong because of a case-working error and, if so, it may correct that error. However, other possible outcomes include the relevant team simply being asked to revisit its decision, or the refusal decision remaining in force, but with different or additional reasons given.
When it comes to a refusal of citizenship, there is no legal right of appeal or review of nationality decisions. However, you may ask for this decision to be reconsidered if you disagree with the reason for refusal. You may also be able to request a reconsideration of certain visa decisions, including if you applied to extend your leave, switch your visa or settle in the UK, provided you have no right to an appeal or administrative review. To make this request, you must believe that the immigration rules or policies were not followed correctly when the decision was made. You must also be in the UK and have, for example, new evidence to prove that your documents were authentic or evidence that information received by UKVI was not previously available to the caseworker who made the decision.
Common reasons for Home Office refusal decisions
There can be various reasons as to why a visa or citizenship application is refused, where you will be notified of UKVI’s decision in writing, together with the reason for this. This will help you to decide what options are available to you or whether to apply again.
In broad terms, if a visa or citizenship application is refused, this will be because the UKVI caseworker dealing with the application has formed the view that not all of the substantive requirements have been met. However, below we set out some of the most common reasons as to why an application for a visa or British citizenship will be refused:
a failure to meet one of the many eligibility or legal requirements: depending on the nature and basis of your application, you may have been unable to meet certain requirements. For example, you may have failed to prove a minimum amount in savings or to meet a minimum income threshold under any financial requirement. Equally, if you applied for settlement or citizenship, you may have failed to meet the continuous or lawful residence requirements as a result of prolonged absences from the UK.
the provision of false or misleading information when applying: this could be in the form of information set out in your written application or provided in any in-person interview, as well as documentation submitted in support. Any false representations, use of deception or false documents, or even non-disclosure of relevant facts, all goes to the question of suitability for a visa or citizenship. In some cases, depending on the facts, UKVI ‘may’ refuse your application, where refusal is discretionary. In others, UKVI ‘must’ refuse your application, including where a finding is made of a deliberate intention to deceive, where refusal is mandatory. This could be, for example, if UKVI discovers that you have applied for a family or dependant visa on the basis of a sham marriage.
Previous breaches of the immigration rules or having a criminal record: this could include overstaying in the UK or other immigration breaches, or where you have recent, unspent or serious criminal convictions. A visa application can also be refused if your presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good due to your conduct, character, associations or for other reasons, including convictions which do not fall within the criminality grounds. Similarly, when applying for citizenship, you must meet a good character requirement.
If you have recently received a refusal decision, it is always best to immediately seek expert advice. There are strict time limits within which any challenge can be raised. It is also worth exploring all available options, including the possibility of re-applying, although the merits of making a fresh application will depend on the reason for refusal. For example, where a finding has been made of deliberate deception, it is highly likely that UKVI has been able to establish clear evidence of this. As such, this will not only limit any prospects of overturning your refusal decision, but will also impact any further applications. In other cases, such as where a continuous residence requirement has not been met, you may need to wait until that requirement can clearly be satisfied before submitting a new application.
There is no specific time limit for re-applying for a visa or citizenship following a refusal decision, although you may not be able to re-apply if any challenge of your decision is ongoing. It is also generally a good idea to wait until you have addressed the reason(s) for the refusal and can provide a stronger application before re-applying, where a previous refusal will often cause any subsequent application to be given even greater scrutiny.
DavidsonMorris are UK immigration specialists. For advice and support with a UK Home Office application, contact our experts.
Refused Home Office application FAQs
Why does my visa application say refused?
There may be a number of reasons why your visa application has been refused, where you must meet certain eligibility and suitability requirements under the UK’s Immigration Rules. Your application may also have been refused for more than one reason.
What if my UK visa application has been refused?
If your visa application has been refused, you will be sent written notification of this decision by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). Your UKVI letter or email should tell you if you have a right of appeal or administrative review.
What happens if immigration application is denied?
If your immigration application is denied by the Home Office, you will need to consider what options are potentially available to you, from the possibility of an appeal or an administrative review of your decision, to submitting a fresh application.
What are the chances of getting a UK visa after refusal?
The chances of getting a UK visa after a refusal decision will depend on the reasons for this. In some cases, you may be able to re-apply for a visa once you have met the relevant requirements under the rules.
Last updated: 16 November 2023